South Leeds engineer Laura Smith set for Malawi

Local Fire Engineer calls for final funding support before she embarks on volunteer expedition at Malawi school alongside fellow women engineers

Life for Leeds based Laura Smith is about to drastically change. Laura, who is a fire engineer at OFR Consultants based at Brewery Wharf in the South Bank area of Hunslet, is set to embark on an expedition to Malawi in May, as a volunteer at Rainbow Hope Secondary School situated in Mangochi on the shore of Lake Malawi.

The school’s location may sound idyllic but the reality is far from that, as education is not compulsory in Malawi and the schools are hugely lacking in resource with the majority of teachers untrained.

There are few secondary schools in Malawi meaning students are forced to walk great distances to study, and stringent primary final year exams results in only 58% of adult males having a secondary level education; dropping to just 39% for females.

The expedition’s aim, which has been arranged by Jacobs and WSP engineers based in New Zealand and the UK, is to build a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classroom and carry out workshops with the students to help with problem solving and team building, as well as health and wellbeing issues faced by those living in the area.

Alongside a 25 strong team of fellow women engineers, Laura, 31, who has 6 years’ experience in the industry in her roles at both WPS and OFR, is currently fundraising to meet the £10,000 target the group requires to carry out the work.

Laura explains more:

“I personally can’t wait to work with the team of enthusiastic and talented women who all have the same aim – to improve the facilities at Rainbow Hope Secondary School.

“This work will be carried out as part of Orbis Expeditions, who have already achieved a huge amount working with the school already. We hope to continue their hard work and give students the opportunities all children should have.

“In order to achieve this goal, we’re raising funds towards the cost of the expedition, construction materials and workshop supplies. So far, the group has impressively managed to raise over £7,000 of a £10,000 target. This has been raised through cake sales, pub quizzes, and raffles, as well as very generous donations from companies and individuals. We’re positive we can hit target by the time we travel in May, and would like to say a huge thank you to all those who’ve already supported us.”

Katy Toms, Senior Engineer at WSP, added:

“We’re thrilled to have so many supporters of the  STEM Build Malawi expedition and can’t wait to see the results of the life changing work the women are due to commence in May. Engineering is such an important part of all walks of life, and if we can change just one child’s future then it’s a project worth doing. I applaud Laura and the team, and wish them well in their upcoming challenge.”

Kelly Jeffery, Civil Engineer at Jacobs concluded:

“This is a project we’re excited about for both the volunteers and the pupils at Rainbow Hope. The STEM classroom will change the lives of the young students at the school and hopefully produce engineers of the future. It’s certainly a future we’re very keen to support in both time and funding, and we can’t wait to hear about the successes of the volunteers once they’ve completed their challenge in Malawi.”

To find out more information about the projects, or to donate towards the construction costs, the team fundraising page can be found here:


This post is based on a press release issued on behalf of OFR Consultants